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 James Tartaglia


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Nihilism and the Meaning of Life
A Philosophical Dialogue with James Tartaglia

 (Read Here)

A System of Nihilism, Consciousness, and Reality

 (Flyer and Discount Voucher)

Chapter 1:
The Meaninglessness of Life
Chapter 2:
A Survey of Misguided Coping Strategies: Does Nihilism Ruin Your Life?
Chapter 3:
On What Philosophy Is
Chapter 4:
The Problem of Consciousness
Chapter 5:
Consciousness: The Transcendent Hypothesis
Chapter 6:
Chapter 7:
Chapter 8:
Nihilism, Transcendence, and Philosophy

What would they have said about our Mind-Body Problem?

Edited by Stephen Leach and James Tartaglia

The idea of Consciousness and the Great Philosophers is for an edited collection of short articles addressing the question of how the great philosophers of the past might have reacted to the contemporary problem of consciousness. By the latter, we mean what David Chalmers has called the ‘Hard Problem’: the problem of explaining how objective neural activity in the brain can account for, give rise to, or perhaps even be identified with, subjective conscious experience. The idea, then, is for leading experts on major figures from the history of philosophy to imaginatively engage with the question of how the philosopher in question might have reacted to this problem, had they heard about it.

David Skrbina
Lenn Goodman
Suzanne Stern-Gillet
Vasubandhu – Dan Lusthaus
Mark Siderits
Nader El-Bizri
Edward Feser
John Cottingham
Matthew Stuart
Genevieve Lloyd
Tim Crane
Tom Stoneham
Peter Kail
Tobias Schlicht
Richard Dien Winfield
Sebastian Gardner
Robert Wicks
William James:
Owen Flanagan & Heather Wallace
Rex Welshon
John Drummond
Philip Goff
Stephen Leach
Oskari Kuusela
Denis McManus
Julia Tanney
Joseph Catalano
Shaun Gallagher
Alex Orenstein
Rachael Wiseman
Simon Glendinning
James Tartaglia

  • Books
  • Journal Articles
  • Other Articles
  • Reviews
Philosophy amid Ceaseless Technological Advance

The sequel to Philosophy in a Meaningless Life. Just as Meaningless presented three traditional topics - Consciousness, Time and Universals - within the context of nihilism, Gods and Titans will present three traditional topics - Free Will, Personal Identity and Truth - within the context of our ever-expanding technological capabilities.

(London: Routledge)
[Co-edited collection with Stephen Leach]

The sequel to Consciousness and the Great Philosophers. This collection will contain 35 newly-commissioned articles asking what great philosophers of the past - representing a wide range of philosophical traditions from the beginnings of philosophy to the twentieth century - have to contribute to our understanding of the meaning of life.

(Edited by Masahiro Morioka; Saitama, Japan: Journal of Philosophy of Life 2017)

Ten philosophers reflect on Philosophy in a Meaningless Life; contains a reply to each essay and an introductory essay entitled 'Nihilism and the Meaning of Life'.

What would they have said about our Mind-Body Problem?
(London: Routledge 2016)
[Co-edited collection with Stephen Leach]

The idea of Consciousness and the Great Philosophers is for an edited collection of short articles addressing the question of how the great philosophers of the past might have reacted to the contemporary problem of consciousness. By the latter, we mean what David Chalmers has called the ‘Hard Problem’: the problem of explaining how objective neural activity in the brain can account for, give rise to, or perhaps even be identified with, subjective conscious experience. The idea, then, is for leading experts on major figures from the history of philosophy to imaginatively engage with the question of how the philosopher in question might have reacted to this problem, had they heard about it.

A System of Nihilism, Consciousness, and Transcendence
(London: Bloomsbury 2016)

This book combines an account of the autonomy of philosophy with a new theory of consciousness. The account of philosophy is rooted in the question of the meaning of life. This question, it is argued, is neither obscure nor obsolete, but rather reflects an ancient and natural concern to which all other traditional philosophical problems can be squarely related; allowing them to be reconnected with natural sources of interest, and providing a diagnosis of the typical lines of opposition to be found across philosophy’s debates. The question of the meaning of life is answered with nihilism: reality is meaningless. But finding nothing pernicious in this, the author rejects the various strategies devised in the 20th century for evading or coping with nihilism. Nihilism would be false if there were a transcendent context of meaning. But in correctly retreating from this prospect, it is claimed, philosophy erroneously retreated from the concept of transcendence itself. For only in terms of this concept can the contemporary problem of consciousness be solved, thereby avoiding an untenable revisionism: either of our conception of consciousness or the physical world. In terms of the transcendence of consciousness (which has no scientific implications), the author explains how the ‘block universe’ account of time suggested by contemporary physics can be reconciled with a temporal present, and why commitment to universals seems irrevocable. The book concludes that philosophy’s cultural role is to maintain a rational discussion about transcendence, and that through greater self-awareness, it can regain its influence.

KEYWORDS: Meaning of Life; Metaphilosophy; Philosophy of Mind; Metaphysics; Consciousness; Time; Universals; Nihilism; Transcendence; Autonomy of Philosophy.

Early Philosophical Papers
by Richard Rorty
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2014)
[co-edited collection with Stephen Leach; foreword by Daniel C. Dennett; translated into Portuguese, 2016]

This volume presents a selection of the philosophical essays which Richard Rorty wrote during the first decade of his career, and complements four previous volumes of his papers published by Cambridge University Press. In this long neglected body of work, which many leading philosophers still consider to be his best, Rorty develops his views on the nature and scope of philosophy in a manner which supplements and elucidates his definitive statement on these matters in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. He also develops his groundbreaking version of eliminative materialism, a label first coined to describe his position, and sets out original views on various central topics in the philosophy of language, concerning private language, indeterminacy, and verificationalism. A substantial introduction examines Rorty's philosophical development from 1961 to 1972. The volume completes our understanding of Rorty's intellectual trajectory and offers lucid statements of positions which retain their relevance to current debates.

Richard Rorty: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers, 4 volumes (London: Routledge 2009)
[edited collection with an introduction to each volume, 1552 pp.]

Abstract: A collection of the best Rorty scholarship from the 1960s to the present day, selected from a wide range of academic journals, edited collections, and research monographs. The first of the four volumes ('Mind, Language, and Truth') covers Rorty's eliminative materialism in the philosophy of mind, his Davidsonian rejection of conceptual schemes in the philosophy of language, and his rejection of objective truth. Volume II ('Metaphilosophy and Pragmatism') assembles the best assessments of his pessimistic metaphilosophy, and his distinctive conception of pragmatism. The third volume ('Philosophers') brings together the key scholarly work on Rorty's highly original but endlessly disputed interpretations of other philosophers, while the final volume (Volume IV: 'Themes') explores Rorty's views as applied to a diverse range of topics, including feminism, Chinese philosophy, environmentalism, and bioethics. The introductions to each volume provide essential background information and critical analysis, while thematically relating the various articles to each other.

Rorty and the Mirror of Nature
(London: Routledge 2007)
[monograph, 264 pp.]

Abstract: This book provides an interpretation and critique of the metaphilosophy of Richard Rorty, through a detailed and critical exposition of his main work, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. I dispute standard interpretations of Rorty’s intellectual trajectory from analytic philosopher to metaphilosopher, reassess his contributions to the philosophy of mind and language, criticise his attempts to dissolve the mind-body problem, and reveal the tension between his commitments to both Davidson’s rejection of the scheme-content distinction and Kuhn’s pluralism.
Special Issue 'Nihilism and the Meaning of Life: A Philosophical Dialogue with James Tartaglia,'Journal of Philosophy of Life, 7:1, 2017: 1-315
 < Open Access >
'Nihilism and the Meaning of Life'; 'Reply to Adam Balmer'; 'Reply to Philip Goff'; 'Reply to Ronald A. Kuipers'; 'Reply to Tracy Llanera'; 'Reply to Alan Malachowski'; 'Reply to Bjørn Ramberg'; 'Reply to Brooke Alan Trisel'; 'Reply to J.J. Valberg'; 'Reply to Damian Veal'; 'Reply to Sho Yamaguchi'.
'What is at Stake in Illusionism', Journal of Consciousness Studies, 23:11-12, 2016: 236-255
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Abstract: I endorse the central message of Keith Frankish’s ‘Illusionism as a Theory of Consciousness’: if physicalism is true, phenomenal consciousness must be an illusion. Attempts to find an intermediate position between physicalist illusionism and the rejection of physicalism are untenable. Unlike Frankish, however, I reject physicalism; while still endorsing illusionism. My misgivings about physicalist illusionism are that it removes any rational basis from our judgement inclinations concerning consciousness, undermines the epistemic basis required to explain the genesis of our physical conception of the world,
and leads to a widespread scepticism about the basis of philosophical reflection. I endorse the core of physicalist intuition, but not its metaphysic, and sketch my alternative illusionism, which resists physicalism’s merging of philosophy with science without thereby impinging on science. I conclude that physicalism is fostered by inattention to metaphilosophy and threatens philosophy’s distinctive voice; but that illusionism itself is an important insight.
'Jazz-Philosophy Fusion', Performance Philosophy, 2:1, 2016: 99-114
 < Download > < Web Link >
Abstract: In this paper I describe and provide a justification for the fusion of jazz music and philosophy which I have developed; the justification is provided from the perspectives of both jazz and philosophy. I discuss two of my compositions, based on philosophical ideas presented by Schopenhauer and Derek Parfit respectively; links to sound files are provided. The justification emerging from this discussion is that philosophy produces ‘non-argumentative effects’ which provide suitable material for artistic expression and exploration. These effects – which are often emotional – are under-recognised in philosophy, but they do important philosophical work in demarcating the kinds of truths we want to discover, and in sustaining our search for them.
Jazz-Philosophy Fusion can help to increase metaphilosophical self-consciousness about these effects, while also helping to counteract any undue persuasive force they may achieve. Jazz is a particularly suitable medium because it has independently developed a concern with philosophical ideas; because of strong parallels between jazz and philosophy which explain their mutual openness to fusions, and because improvisation very effectively facilitates the direct audience engagement essential to inducing these effects.
‘Transculturalism and the Meaning of Life’, Humanities, 5:2, 2016: 1-13
 < Web Link >
Abstract: I begin by introducing the standoff between the transculturalist aim of moving beyond cultural inheritances, and the worry that this project is itself a product of cultural inheritances. I argue that this is rooted in concerns about the meaning of life, and in particular, the prospect of nihilism. I then distinguish two diametrically opposed humanistic responses to nihilism, post-Nietzschean rejections of objective truth, and the moral objectivism favoured by some analytic philosophers, claiming that both attempt, in different ways, to break down the distinction between description and evaluation.
I argue that the evaluative sense of a “meaningful life” favoured by moral objectivists cannot track objective meaningfulness in human lives, and that there are manifest dangers to treating social meaning judgements as a secular substitute for the meaning of life. I then conclude that the problems of the post-Nietzscheans and moral objectivists can be avoided, and the transculturalist standoff alleviated, if we recognise that nihilism is descriptive, and maintain a principled distinction between description and evaluation.
'Is Philosophy all about the Meaning of Life?' Metaphilosophy, 47:2, 2016: 283-303
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Abstract: This article defends a conception of philosophy popular outside the discipline but unpopular within it: that philosophy is unified by a concern with the meaning of life. First, it argues against exceptionalist theses according to which philosophy is unique among academic disciplines in not being united by a distinctive subject matter. It then presents a positive account, showing that the issue of the meaning of life is uniquely able to reveal unity between the practical and theoretical concerns of philosophy, while meeting a range of desiderata for a typical specification of subject matter.
After showing how recent analytic work on “the meaning of life” has conflated the traditional question with issues of social meaningfulness, it offers an explanation of why the traditional question has become marginalised in philosophy. The reasons are not good, however, so it concludes that philosophy should embrace its popular image.
'Rorty's Ambivalent Relationship with Kant' Contemporary Pragmatism, 13:3, 2016: 298-318
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I argue that Kant is a key figure in understanding Rorty’s work, by drawing attention to the fact that although he is ostensibly the principal villain of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, at the end of that book Kant provides the basis of Rorty's positive proposal that we view the world “bifocally”. I show how this idea was re-worked as “irony” in Continency, Irony, and Solidarity, and became central to Rorty’s outlook.
However, by allowing this Kantian influence into his thinking, Rorty made his position untenable. For Rortyan pragmatism undercuts the higher stance required by the concept of irony; and yet without this Kantian influence, Rorty would have been unable to justify his pluralism. Rorty could not live with Kant but could not live without him either.
'Response to Darragh Byrne's "Do Phenomenal Concepts Misrepresent?”' Philosophical Psychology, 29:5, 2016: 679-681
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I begin by summarizing my view of the progression that occurred from 1950s to 1990s physicalism, and in terms of this, present an overview of the reconciliation I was attempting in ‘Conceptualizing Physical Consciousness’. I then address Byrne’s two main arguments. In the case of the first, I show that his argument turns on a third-person conception of appearance which is not the one addressed in the debates in question, and argue that functionalism is not relevant to physicalism about consciousness in the manner Byrne thinks.
In the case of the second, I argue that Byrne’s attempt to prise metaphysics apart from science shows a misunderstanding of the physicalist agenda. In conclusion I indicate how my views have moved on. My misrepresentation thesis, like any form of conventional physicalism, cannot ultimately avoid eliminativism; and this I reject.
'Metz's Quest for the Holy Grail' Journal of Philosophy of Life, 5:3, 2015: 90-111
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Abstract: This paper is a critique of the new paradigm in analytic philosophy for investigating the meaning of life, focusing on Meaning in Life as the definitive example. Metz relies upon intuition, and reflection upon recent analytic literature, to guide him to his ‘fundamentality theory’. He calls this a theory of ‘the meaning of life’, saying it may be ‘the holy grail’. I argue that Metz’s project is not addressed to the meaning of life, but a distinct issue about social meaning; and that by neglecting and sidelining alternative approaches, his results are rendered provisional.
I then argue that there are a number of equally legitimate senses of a ‘socially meaningful life’; that Metz’s exclusive and unjustified focus on only one radically diminishes the scope of his project; and that what remains is undermined by cultural specificity. Finally, I argue that the Kripkean semantics Metz adopts runs counter to his interests.
[See Metz's response]
'Are We Just Brains?', translated into Polish as 'Czy jesteśmy tylko mózgami?' Filozofuj!, 1:4, 2015: 6-8.
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'The Real Question of the Meaning of Life', translated into Polish as 'O co naprawę chodzi w pytaniu o sens życia',Filozofuj!, 1:2, 2015: 12-14.
 < Download > <Web Link >
‘Rorty’s Thesis of the Cultural Specificity of Philosophy’, Philosophy East and West: a quarterly of comparative philosophy, 65:4, 2014: 1016-1036
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Abstract: In his brief consideration of non-Western philosophy between 1989 and 1991, Richard Rorty argued that dialogue between Western philosophy and non-Western traditions is not constructive since it almost inevitably involves fundamental misunderstanding, and he even expressed doubt about whether non-Western philosophy exists. This reaction seems out of character, given that Rorty specialised in forging unlikely alliances between philosophers from different Western traditions, and was an enthusiastic advocate of edification through hermeneutic engagement with unfamiliar vocabularies. I argue that given Rorty’s conception of philosophy as a literary tradition, he had no reason to exclude non-Western figures, and that his various arguments against the desirability of comparative philosophy –
based on the different purposes of different traditions, their different conceptual schemes, and his notion of ‘transcultural character’ - are all inconsistent with more characteristic elements of his thought, as well as independently unconvincing. The underlying reason Rorty adopted this combative stance towards comparative philosophy, I argue, is that non-Western philosophy undermines his critique of Western philosophy, which depends on a cultural specificity thesis according to which philosophical problems are rooted in obsolete European social needs. Against this thesis, I conclude by arguing that philosophy has a natural subject-matter.
'Conceptualising Physical Consciousness', Philosophical Psychology, 26:6, 2013: 817-838
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Abstract: Theories which combine physicalism with phenomenal concepts abandon the phenomenal irrealism characteristic of 1950s physicalism, thereby leaving physicalists trying to reconcile themselves to concepts appropriate only to dualism. Physicalists should instead abandon phenomenal concepts and try to develop our concepts of conscious states. Employing an account of concepts as structured mental representations, and motivating a model of conceptual development with semantic externalist considerations, I suggest that phenomenal concepts misrepresent their referents, such that if our conception of consciousness incorporates them, it needs development. I then argue that the Phenomenal Concept Strategy (PCS) of a purely cognitive account of the distinction between phenomenal and physical concepts -
combines physicalism with phenomenal concepts only by misrepresenting physical properties. This is because phenomenal concepts carry ontological commitment, and I present an argument to show the tension between this commitment and granting ontological authority to physical concepts only. In the final section, I show why phenomenal concepts are more ontologically committed than PCS theorists can allow, revive U.T. Place’s notion of a ‘phenomenological fallacy’ to explain their enduring appeal, and then suggest some advantages of functional analyses of concepts of conscious states over the phenomenal alternative.
‘Horizons, PIOs, and Bad Faith’, Philosophy and Technology, 25:3, 2012: 345-361
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Abstract: I begin by comparing the question of what constitutes continuity of Personal Identity Online (PIO), to the traditional question of whether personal identity is constituted by psychological or physical continuity, bringing out the compelling but, I aim to show, ultimately misleading reasons for thinking only psychological continuity has application to PIO. After introducing and defending J.J. Valberg’s horizonal conception of consciousness, I show how it deepens our understanding of psychological and physical continuity accounts of personal identity, while revealing their shortcomings.
I then argue that PIO must also be understood against the backdrop of the horizonal conception, that this undermines sharp dichotomies between online and offline identity, and that although online psychological continuity might become necessary for the preservation of our personal identities, we cannot become our PIOs. Finally, I argue that if PIO is understood solely in terms of psychological continuity, any increasing identification with our PIOs assumes the form of a paradigmatic project of bad faith: a technological reduction of our self-consciousness, rather than the enhancement it should be.

‘Does Rorty’s Pragmatism Undermine Itself?’, European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, 4:1, 2012: 284-301
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Abstract. Paul Boghossian and Hilary Putnam have presented arguments designed to show self-referential difficulties within Rorty‘s pragmatism. I respond to these arguments by drawing out the details of the pragmatic account of justification implicit within Rorty‘s writings, thereby revealing it to be a sophisticated form of relativism that does not undermine itself. In Section I and II, I motivate my strategy of attributing a positive position to Rorty in order to respond to detailed, analytical arguments such as those of Boghossian, and present an outline of this position, agreeing with Rorty‘s critics that it can be justifiably classified as a form of relativism. Sections III to V concern the detail of Boghossian‘s argument, in which I show that Boghossian‘s contention that Rorty‘s rejection of-
-all absolute justification is inconsistent can be satisfactorily answered by explaining the differences between 'epistemic systems' in terms of the different purposes they serve. Then in Sections VI to VIII, I further develop Rorty‘s account of justification in order to answer Putnam‘s charge that Rorty tries to say 'from a God‘s-Eye View there is no God‘s-Eye View'. I reject Rorty‘s own 'social-reformer' response to this argument, but show that it can be satisfactorily answered by distinguishing two integrated components within Rorty‘s pragmatism, one holistic and coherentist, and the other causal and social-evolutionary.
‘Philosophy between Religion and Science’, Philosophy’s Future: Science or Something Else?, Papers in Philosophy, 12:2, 2011: 224-241
 < Web Link >
Abstract: Philosophical concerns are evidenced from the beginning of human literature, which have no obvious connection to philosophy’s mainstream epistemological and metaphysical problematic. I reject the views that the nature of philosophy is a philosophical question, and that the discipline is united by methodology, arguing that it must be united by subject matter. The origins of the discipline provide reasons to doubt the existence of a unifying subject matter, however, and scepticism about philosophy also arises from its a priori methodology and apparent lack of progress.
In response, I argue that philosophy acquired a distinctive subject matter when the concept of transcendence was introduced into attempts to gain a systematic understanding of the world and our place within it; philosophy thereby pursues the same aim of achieving a synoptic vision of reality as religion, but resembles science in its development and employment of rigorous methodologies. Philosophy’s subject matter explains why it must be pursued a priori, and it only appears not to have progressed when aims are neglected, and it is inappropriately assimilated to science.
‘Did Rorty's Pragmatism have Foundations?’, International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 18:5, 2010: 607-627
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Abstract: There is an overt tension between Rorty’s pragmatist critique of philosophy, and his apparent epistemological and metaphysical commitments, which it is instructive to examine not only in order to assess Rorty’s overall position, but also renewed contemporary interest in pragmatism and its metaphilosophical implications. After showing why Rorty’s attempts to limit the scope of his critique failed to resolve this tension, I try reading him as a constructive metaphysician who was attempting to balance a causal account of the language / world relation with panrelationism.
However, Rorty intended these commitments to be interpreted in light of his pragmatism about vocabularies, and relied upon a ‘social standpoint strategy’ to render his overall position consistent. I conclude that to the extent that this strategy succeeds, it removes almost all of the argumentative force from Rorty’s pragmatism.

‘Consciousness, Intentionality, and the Mark of the Mental: Rorty’s Challenge’, The Monist, 91:2, 2008: 324-46
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Abstract: Intentionality and phenomenal consciousness are the main candidates to provide a ‘mark of the mental’. Rorty, who thinks the category ‘mental’ lacks any underlying unity, suggests a challenge to these positions: to explain how intentionality or phenomenal consciousness alone could generate a mental-physical contrast. I argue that a failure to meet Rorty’s challenge would present a serious indictment of the concept of mind, even though Rorty’s own position is untenable.
I then argue that both intentionalism and proposals such as Searle’s ‘Connection Principle’ fail to satisfy this explanatory burden. I conclude with the suggestion that only introspectibility may be able to unite intentional and phenomenal states whilst meeting Rorty’s challenge.

‘The History of Mind’, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 12:4, 2004: 743-752
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Abstract: A well-known position in contemporary philosophy of mind is that we shall never solve the mind-body problem. A more popular position is that the concept of mind presents us with the illusion of an insoluble mind-body problem. In such an intellectual climate, we need to remind ourselves of the historical contingencies which have delivered the particularities of the concept of mind currently holding sway over our thinking, a concept which the aforementioned positions treat as if its possession were a natural fact about the human species. This paper pursues this historicist approach through an examination of two recent histories of the concept of mind.
• 'Ayer and the Meaning of Life', in S. Leach and J. Tartaglia (eds.) The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers, London: Routledge (forthcoming 2018)

• 'The Sound of Philosophy', Philosophy Now, 119, 2017: 26-9
 < Web Link >

• ‘Rorty and the Problem of Consciousness', in S. Leach and J. Tartaglia (eds.) Consciousness and the Great Philosophers: What would they have said about our mind-body problem? London: Routledge (2016)
 < Download >

• ‘Rorty’s Philosophy of Consciousness’, in A. Malachowski (ed.) A Companion to Rorty, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell (forthcoming 2017)
 < Download >

• ‘Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature’, in A. Malachowski (ed.) A Companion to Rorty, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell (forthcoming 2017)
 < Download >

• ‘Are Causal Pressures a part of the Way the World Is?’, in J. Tartaglia (ed.) Richard Rorty: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers, vol. 1 (London: Routledge 2009)

• ‘Metaphilosophy’ in A.C. Grayling, A. Pyle & N. Goulder (eds.) The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy (Bristol: Thoemmes 2006)
 < Download >

• ‘J.J.C. Smart’, ‘U.T. Place’, ‘B.A. Farrell’ in Stuart Brown (ed.) Dictionary of Twentieth Century British Philosophers (Bristol: Thoemmes 2005); reprinted in The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy (Bristol: Thoemmes 2006)

• ‘Davidson’s Causal Theory of Action’, CD-ROM survey article for Instituto de Filosofia da Linguagem, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (2001)
• ‘Why Save the World?', Review of A Significant Life by Todd May, TLS: The Times Literary Supplement, February 26, 2016, No. 5891 (p. 22)
< Download >  < Web Link >

• ‘Review of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature: Thirtieth Anniversary Edition by Richard Rorty’, European Journal of Philosophy, 19:1, 2011: pp. 165-9.
< Download >  < Web Link >

• ‘Review of The History of the Concept of Mind, Volume 2 by Paul Macdonald’, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 17:1, 2009: pp. 225-9  < Download >  < Web Link >

• ‘Review of From Passions to Emotions by Thomas Dixon’, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 13:4, 2005: 811-4  < Web Link >

• ‘Review of Richard Rorty, eds. C. Guignon and D. Hiley, and Richard Rorty by Alan Malachowski’, Philosophical Books, 46:1, 2005: 79-81  < Web Link >

• ‘Review of Rorty and His Critics, ed. R. Brandom, and Richard Rorty: Critical Dialogues, eds. M. Festerstein & S. Thompson’, Philosophical Books, 44:2, 2003: 168-171  < Web Link >

• ‘Critical Study of Merleau-Ponty by Stephen Priest’, Noûs, 35:2, 2001: 317-323  < Web Link >

• ‘Review of Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers, Volume 3 by Richard Rorty’, European Journal of Philosophy, 8:3, 2000: 393-6  < Web Link >
Click here for Philosophy
Click here for Jazz
If you're not interested in either, click here.
I started playing alto saxophone when I was 11 and began gigging at 14. I won the soloist award in the Daily Telegraph Young Jazz Musician of the Year competition in 1991, and then won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music, Boston, U.S.A., where I studied under tenor saxophonist George Garzone in 1992-3. I switched from alto to tenor saxophone after returning to London to study philosophy. I switched back to alto in 2017.

I now lead the band Continuum of Selves, whose debut album is called 'Jazz-Philosophy Fusion'.

Continuum of Selves

APRA Multi-Disciplinary Fellow for 2015

Tenor and Alto Saxophones
Jazz Composition
I started playing organ at 6 and alto saxophone at 11. I began gigging around Herefordshire with local rock bands at 14, and set up a jazz group at school; we were runners-up in the GCSE category of the Daily Telegraph Young Jazz Musician of the Year Competition. I began gigging regularly throughout the Midlands and Wales with pianist Dave Price and trumpeter Rod Kelly. I performed at the Brecon and Upton Jazz Festivals, toured London with the Keith and Marcia Pendlebury band, and took saxophone lessons from Bill Skeat and Herb Geller.

In 1991 I won the soloist award in the Daily Telegraph Young Jazz Musician of Year Competition, and soon afterwards recorded an audition tape of my original compositions, which I sent to Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA. Berklee invited me to an audition in Frankfurt, Germany, and I won a scholarship. In my year at Berklee (the duration of the scholarship), I studied saxophone with George Garzone, and set up two bands - a trio and a quintet - mainly performing my original compositions; we gigged around the Boston area.

When I returned to the UK, I toured Birmingham and London. In 1993, I moved to London to begin a degree in philosophy, and formed a new quintet. I then began a long period of freelancing on the London scene, and self-produced a book of my compositions: 100 Jazz Compositions (1997). Time spent in Brighton one summer resulted in a two-year weekly residency at the 'Brighton Rock' pub, as well as various other gigs around the south coast with popular organ combo 'Hammond X'.

In 2000, I began a long association with drummer Mark Huggett, which resulted in residencies at venues on Tottenham Court Road and near London Bridge. In 2002 we recorded an album of standards, released through I moved to Birmingham in 2003, and soon afterwards recorded a second album; the music this time was an avant-garde protest against the invasion of Iraq featuring two vocalists. In 2004 I toured Wales. In 2008 I recorded a third album, Dark Metaphysic. This was a free-funk, philosophy-themed concept album featuring the same vocalists and trombonist Annie Whitehead . I was the main soloist on Dan Wilson and Mark Huggett's international collaborative album Max Roach Park, which was nominated for Jazz CD of the year at the South African Music Awards, and in 2009 I recorded on the sequel, released in 2011 as Field of Hope. In 2013 I recorded my fourth album, Kooky Steps. In 2015, I became the APRA Multi-Disciplinary Fellow, funding an on-going project which combines jazz with philosophy.
Jazz-Philosophy Fusion (2016)

The debut album by Continuum of Selves

1. Teletransportation

2. Animalism

3. Dream, Death, and the Self

4. Email Persona

5. No-Self (Onion)

6. Spicy Crab

7. Me for You and You and Me

8. The Transcendental Ego

Where Can I Go Without You? (2002)

A straight-ahead album of jazz originals.

1. Isotope (Joe Henderson)

2. Jayne (Ornette Coleman)

3. Ray's Idea (Ray Brown)

4. Prelude to a Kiss (Duke Ellington)

5. Dear John (Freddie Hubbard)

6. Where Can I go without you? (Peggy Lee)

7. Fried Bananas (Dexter Gordon)

8. Poutin' (Ben Webster)

Available from:

Kooky Steps (2014)

An album combining swinging jazz with edgy experimentation.

1. Kooky Steps (James Tartaglia)

2. Schopenhauer’s Blues (James Tartaglia)

3. Video Games (Ornette Coleman)

4. You, me, and the Spring (Lalo Schifrin)

5. Change has Come (Albert Ayler)

6. It's just his Bleedin' Mouth (James Tartaglia)

7. Friends and his Neighbors (Ornette Coleman)

8. Gibbons (James Tartaglia)

Available from:
Amazon, Itunes

A Free Jazz Treatise (2003)

An album of extreme free jazz; all original compositions.

1. Paedophile Priest

2. Asylum Seeker

3. Weapons of Mass Destruction

4. Peace Process

5. Economic Migrant

6. Paedophile Priest (Live)

7. Peace Process (Live)

8. Weapons of Mass Destruction (Live)

Available from:
jazzdirect and jazzcds

“Treatise employs the musical language of Albert Ayler ... to explore some particularly difficult current issues. [...] This approach works extraordinarily well, the pieces - all first takes - mixing expressive solo tenor lines and childlike, often wordless singing over marching beats ... Not an easy listen, as if its subject matter would allow that, but certainly a hugely rewarding one.” SIMON ADAMS, JAZZ JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL, MARCH 2004

Dark Metaphysic (2008)

An experimental jazz-funk concept album; all original compositions.

1. Priests In White Coats

2. Rhythm Pitch

3. Silent Soliloquy

4. Tribute To The Artist Bruce Nauman

5. Pornographer Scum

6. Hermetic Emanations

7. That Boy Was Gonna Play A Solo

Available from:
iTunes, Amazon, jazzdirect and jazzcds

“[A] fun mix of girl group new wave, free jazz and retro funk.”


“The philosophical references accumulate pretty fast and furious—there's a piece dedicated to conceptual artist Bruce Nauman (…) as well as a song about Hermes Trismegistus (…) the lyrics are a witty part of the disc's attempt to communicate philosophically, from the cheerleading affirmation of science in "Priests In White Coats" to the bitter, anti-music-biz screed "That Boy Were Gonna Play A Solo." (…) In their long solos (…) the players face a challenge: how can improvisers trained to exploit harmonic cues sustain inventiveness over single-chord vamps with little melodic variation? (…) Arguably, this gauntlet thrown down by Davis is the conundrum most thoroughly engaged by Dark Metaphysic, and here, the musicians prove they have something significant to say.”


“Dark Metaphysic” is a highly distinctive record; funk music doesn’t normally deal in such esoteric subject matter. There is some great playing on these idiosyncratic tunes with some fine horn solos and a pulsating groove from an exemplary rhythm team.”


“Although this album's accompanying press release describes Dark Metaphysic as a 'unique synthesis of jazz-funk, the avant garde and conceptual art', its cover art features pictures of three German philosophers, and its lyrics range over numerous subjects, including the validity of science, attitudes to pornography and the undervaluing of jazz in the recording industry, it can be readily approached and enjoyed under the first heading, jazz-funk, alone.”


JamesTartaglia Volume 1: Recordings 1991-2006 (2007)

1. Mary Bryant

2. Isotope

3. 500 SEC

4. Velcho Man

5. The Auden Quote

6. Phoebe

7. You Just Gotta Keep Talkin

8. Freedom Jazz Dance

9. Pride

10. Just Like That

11. Asylum Seeker

12. You Can't Jack Up Car By Side O' Road

JamesTartaglia Volume 2: Recordings 1991-2006 (2007)

1. Mr M.D.

2. Henderson

3. Lonely Woman

4. Off The Wagon

5. Peace Process

6. Bemsha Swing

7. Groove's Groove

8. Complete Overhaul

9.Death to the Bourgeoisie

10. It's Just His Bleedin' Mouth

11. Where Can I Go Without You?

12. They're All The Same You See

Blaubac - Perdurance (2002)
1. Freyon

2. Halocline

3. Photerene

4. Electron

5. Fraxis

6. Drsoph

7. Gongous

8. Velle


Available from:

Wilson / Huggett Project - MaxRoachPark (2006)
1. Vuleka

2. Mr M.D.

3. Zuni

4. Fireweed

5. Mello

6. William Blake

7. The Forty Niner

8. Bells


10. No Mans Land

11. Kenyon

12. Tau Ceti

13. A Greener Room

14. Pray

Available from:
iTunes, jazzdirect and jazzcds.

Wilson / Huggett Project - Field of Hope (2011)
1. Mindaë

2. Tribute to Andy Goldsworthy

3. Durbanite

4. Drakensberg

5. Midnight carjack

6. Mbeki's Lament

7. Bunny chow

8. Skipping along the fence

9. The march of time

10. Field of hope

11. Fortieth

12. Romero

13. Up High

Available from:
iTunes, jazzdirect and jazzcds.

Jazz-Philosophy Fusion
Where Can I go Without You?
A Free Jazz Treatise
Dark Metaphysic
Kooky Steps
JamesTartaglia Volume 1: Recordings 1991-2006
JamesTartaglia Volume 2: Recordings 1991-2006
Blaubac - Perdurance (2002)
Wilson / Huggett Project - MaxRoachPark (2006)
Wilson / Huggett Project - Field of Hope (2011)
I am available for freelance work as an alto player (doubling on tenor, if required); primarily jazz, but other styles considered.

I can arrange top-quality, professional jazz groups (I would be the only non-pro in the group) to perform anything from Hammond-groove jazz, to straight-ahead modern jazz, to avant-garde jazz; the price would depend on what you wanted. I am particularly interested in organising live performances of the original music from my albums.

I am always interested in new bands, projects and playing opportunities; especially musicians who are trying to do something new.

Continuum of Selves
APRA Multi-Disciplinary Fellow for 2015


Home Recordings:
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